The Philadelphia Union are just about halfway through Major League Soccer’s extended international break. Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke to the media 10 days before the team gets back into action on Sunday, June 20th at Atlanta United. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
MLS Cup Champs Finally Come To Philly
It has been 822 days since the Columbus Crew last visited Subaru Park, and it is the first time in over a year that Subaru Park will be at full capacity. After playing in a stadium as loud as Atlanta’s was on Sunday, Curtin is ready for the noise to be on Philadelphia’s side.
“We look forward to that advantage,” Curtin said. “To be able to play Columbus, who we haven’t played at home in quite some time, to have the fans behind us, that means everything.”
The last time the reigning Supporters Shield winners played against the reigning MLS Cup winners was in April, and the match ended in scoreless draw in Ohio. The Union currently sit one point ahead of Columbus in the MLS Eastern Conference standings, but the Crew played one game less so far.
“I think [the players] are excited,” Curtin said. “The fans will be needed to push them on like they always do, and it’ll be great to be in front of the Sons of Ben in Subaru Park. The entire stadium, I know, will be very loud.”
Curtin also said that he looks forward to seeing how his team stacks up against the reigning MLS Cup winners, a team that he says has talent all over the pitch.
Presser | Curtin on getting ready for the Crew
Squad Depth Needed
With Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez away with the Venezuelan national team for the Copa America and midfielders Daniel Gazdag and Anthony Fontana injured for Wednesday’s game, Curtin will look to younger players to step up. Curtin added that, while he thought El Brujo is a versatile player, it is great to see him playing in a wide role at such a high level as he is doing in the Copa America.
With two games per week for the foreseeable future, Curtin knows how important it will be to balance squad rotation with keeping team chemistry intact.
“It was a long layoff, and now the games come quick,” Curtin said. “It’s going to be busy for every team, certainly. Some it’s going to be harder for than others with the absences during the Gold Cup.”
Regarding Gazdag’s injury, Curtin said that there is no structural damage and that the attacking midfielder will miss another week at most.
“He just pushed himself on the bike,” Curtin said of Gazdag. “He looked like Lance Armstrong on there, pushing physically to get in shape quickly.”
Curtin stressed the importance of the sports science and sports performance teams during this stretch of games.
In regards to who the fourth midfielder will be in Wednesday’s game, Curtin did not want to reveal too much, but hinted that Matt Real, Jack McGlynn, and Paxten Aaronson all have a chance.
“There’s opportunities for some young guys tomorrow,” Curtin said. “We’ll make a decision. Certainly, in Anthony’s absence, we’ll have to adjust. It’s not going to be an easy match, but I’m not going to give [Columbus Crew Head Coach] Caleb [Porter] any head start on who’s going to be out there.”
Thoughts on a Hard-Fought Point
Curtin had mixed feelings on the Union’s 2-2 draw in Atlanta, saying that he admired the team’s first-half performance.
“Overall, I was pleased with how the team started the game,” Curtin said. “I thought in the first half in particular, we created a lot of chances. I think we were organized defensively and got in[to halftime] with a clean sheet. I think we could have scored a goal or two in the first half.”
The Union Head Coach called Kacper Przybylko’s own goal unlucky and admired how the players stayed motivated after going 2-0 down.
“We hung around long enough for Jakob [Glesnes] to make quite a special play, a very memorable goal,” Curtin said. “Probably a Goal of the Year candidate. Overall, it shows the character of this group.”
When asked to compare Glesnes’ goal against Atlanta to his goal last season against LAFC, Curtin said he prefers the one against Atlanta.